There are downsides to online research. Tools such as SurveyMonkey.com are now so familiar and easy to use that many marketers now bypass company researchers to gather data—which can lead to poorly structured surveys that yield poor data, or worse, create survey exhaustion on the part of customers.
Online research also does not allow for the kind of open-ended probing that telephone research does, said MetLife's Marcus. He added that, for surveys, response rates tend to fall into the 40% range, as opposed to 60% for the telephone.
Online research that offers incentives like Xerox's printer also attracts “professional respondents,” which can skew results. Methods to counter this problem include using trap questions to flush out these particular people or computer-based fingerprinting technologies from such companies as Peanut Labs and MarketTools Inc..
Doing b-to-b research online does mean “you have to be very careful,” said Forrester's Bortner. But it has big pluses as a medium, especially around cost-savings and the speed of data-gathering. Lastly, the potential to use online communities to build deep relationships with customers gives b-to-b marketers another reason to take a look online. M